Public Affairs

California State University Students Give Low-Income
Taxpayers a Break

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Erik Fallis , (562) 951-4800

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(March 20, 2009) -- Throughout the state, taxpayers are getting a helping hand from an unexpected source: California State University (CSU) students. More than a dozen CSU campuses participate in Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs, with students preparing returns free of charge.

“Our program helps many students on campus and people from the community who cannot afford to pay preparers to get their taxes filed,” said Charmaine Baird, a senior accounting major at California State University, Long Beach and the campus’ VITA program coordinator for the second straight year. “At the same time, the program gives student volunteers valuable experience that can further help them to attain full-time employment in the accounting field.”

VITA is a cooperative effort by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and many individual states, including California, to provide income tax assistance to low- and moderate- wage earners (generally, $42,000 and below), the handicapped and the elderly. Volunteers are trained to prepare basic income tax returns.

“Many new and low-income workers are intimidated by tax forms. Often, they end up not filing at all and lose out on their returns,” said Amy Whitlatch of the Redwood Community Action Agency, which coordinates VITA on California's North Coast and works with Humboldt State University. “We depend on volunteers to help people, so the involvement of university students is really important to our success. They do a great job.”

CSU campuses also tailor programs to uniquely meet the needs of their community. The San Francisco State University (SFSU) award-winning VITA program has members who provide assistance in Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish and Burmese. The SFSU VITA program has been recognized by the Western Region IRS for its work.

For program specifics, requirements and schedules please contact the campus programs directly. List of campuses participating in VITA:


About the California State University
The California State University is the largest system of senior higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, approximately 450,000 students and 46,000 faculty and staff. Since the system was created in 1961, it has awarded nearly 2.5 million degrees, about 90,000 annually. Its mission is to provide high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of the people of California. With its commitment to excellence, diversity and innovation, the CSU is the university system that is working for California.